As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently spent some time in San Diego. Whenever I get down to civilization, I tend to look for street art. San Diego had plenty of it. One location in particular stands out, Chicano Park. Many of the murals express explicit historical commentary, a fact all the more significant in light of the history of the park itself. It is the product of local unrest, a local community outraged at a series of developments diminishing the quality of life for its residents. The community had been separated from the waterfront by Naval installations, bisected by freeways and zoned in a manner hardly conducive to residential living. Plans to develop a highway patrol station seem to have been the final straw. It took an occupation to create the park as it presently exists.
And more of course!
Honestly, the stories I found here are a bit beyond me. So, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. That, and perhaps a link or two.
The old man hunched over the counter at the Kaintuck Chicken Massacre with his eyes glued on the roasted chicken. I couldn’t quite hear the young man behind the counter just yet, but I could see the old man pointing at the piece he wanted.
“I want a drum stick”
This time I could year the young teenager responding; “Do you want a 3-piece or a 5, piece. The meal comes with…”
“I want a drum stick!”
The old guy knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted a drum stick. A decade or two earlier, this old fella might have adapted his order to the menu, but now the details were clearly nonsense to him. He was pointing right at the piece he wanted. Why wasn’t that enough?The kid, for his part, wasn’t authorized to act on the desire for a single drum stick. The buttons on the cash register didn’t include that option. He needed to translate the order into something else, something that fit the categories he was allowed to provide. In a few years, the young man might have had the confidence to attempt an explanation, but the old man wasn’t listening anyway, and he had no idea how to deal with the situation. so he just kept repeating himself.
The old man, of course did the same;
“I want a drum stick.
Somewhere in the back, I imagined, there must be a manager, someone endowed with sufficient authority to just give the old man a drumstick, perhaps resolving the technical problem by putting it on the house. Maybe, maybe not. A manager might well have insisted on the usual categories just as the kid had. In any event, there was no manager up near the cash registers. So, the kid just kept repeating the official options.
And the old man just kept repeating himself.
Decades later, I can still hear the old guy’s words as I took my own order out the door.
The lower 48 can seem like a foreign country, not always, but often enough. It’s strange to think so. I mean, I lived down there for over 40 years, so why would it seem so strange to me now? Anyway, it often does.
This feeling came through particularly strong last semester when I agreed to accompany a minor to a chemistry conference in San Diego. I often find myself working on the margins of my own fields, but I have to admit this one was a little bit of a stretch. So, it was with particular joy that I suddenly found myself looking at a bit of Alaskan history.
Right there in San Diego.
I had just descended below deck aboard The Star of India, one of several ships at the Maritime Museum, and there it was, a whole display on the Alaskan fish packing industry, or at least the role The Star of Indian played in shipping the products of fishing out to other parts. I was already enjoying the museum, and I long since warmed to my stay in San Diego when I saw this, and then my face lit right up.
There is something a little perverse about the trajectory that brings me here from the edge of civilization near to its centers only to find the ghosts of so many fish who’ve made that same trip themselves. Whether it’s a perverse irony or a perverse synchrony, I’m not sure, but either way these artifacts of an extractive industry shouldn’t really have surprised me. I enjoy living on the edge of nowhere, though I do so with the full benefits of the modern world to keep me warm and well connected to the rest of y’all, and of course, there is no real escape from the global economy. If places like Alaska are good for fishing, it goes without saying that when they are good enough, a fair portion of stories told about those fish will be told in other places.
Places like San Diego.
Anyway, you never know when a trip out will lead you to a little glimpse of home.
Originally named the Euterpe, this vessel was built in 1863. She hauled salmon out of Alaska from 1902 to 1923, being renamed The Star of India in 1906. As steamships came to dominate the industry, she was finally retired in 1926. Today, she is docked at the Maritime Museum, though she is still seaworthy. You can find a few videos of her out on the water.